IP Video Compression

IP Video Compression

There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding for users of IP video when it comes to the video compression codecs.  This article will try clarify the issues on the subject as concisely as possible.
First of all: What is a "codec?"  A codec is merely a 'code' for the compression and decompression of digital data for the purposes of faster speeds and lower bandwidth consumption.
 
The three basic types of video compression on the IP video market today are MJPEG, MPEG-4, and H.264.  
 
MJPEG uses the least amount of compression and thus produces the best image quality.  However, this image quality comes at the expense of both bandwidth and storage space.  Several MJPEG cameras running on your network will slow things down considerably, and you'll need some very large hard drives to accommodate the stored video.  Also, remote viewing through a home DSL or cable modem will be next to impossible.
 
MPEG-4 cut the bandwidth and storage space of MJPEG in half, but the image quality did suffer a bit.  However, most users willing to sacrifice the degradation of the image due to the compression to double their storage space and lighten the load on the network.
 
H.264 is the latest advancement, and IP video achieved another 50% reduction in the size of the data file over MPEG-4 with virtually the same video quality.  It does this by not recording any part of the image that hasn't changed from the previous frame.  The science of video compression is not within the scope of this article, but you can find a wealth of information on the subject in a simple internet search.
 
My goal is simply to explain the differences between the top three codecs.  Unless you require the absolute best image possible, without regard to either bandwidth or storage, stick with the MJPEG compression as long as it is available.  However, if storage space or bandwidth is a consideration, H.264 is the latest and greatest.  It is even used to transmit the data intensive HDTV signal as well.

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